Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 27, 2003

Meet the candidates for HLWW School Board

By Julie Yurek

Lori Custer

1. Why are you running for office?

I have been involved with the school since my daughters were in elementary school.

I have been a room mother, helped in the office, chaperoned field trips and helped with vision and hearing checks. In addition I have been seated on the Curriculum Advisory Committee, Long Range Planning Committee and the Laker Pride Committee.

I have been asked to run in the past and have decided that the time is right. It would be an honor to serve on the school board as my daughters are finishing their schooling in the HLWW District.

2. What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Clearly, the facilities have been pushed to the top of the issue list.

I don't feel this district is able to financially support a $47 million bond issue. I feel that we need to upgrade and remodel the facilities we have now and develop a building plan that we can grow into. We need to match our tax obligations with our communities' tax capacity.

Secondly, we need to focus our efforts at maintaining an excellent curriculum so that students can compete in their post-secondary plans. Students leaving our school district should be successful in college, in the armed services or in the workplace.

We need to remain up-to-date on education rules and regulations ­ i.e. "No Child Left Behind," and encourage academic excellence at every level.

3. Why should you be elected?

I feel I should be elected because I have experience in our school district. I'm not afraid to tackle issues and I am a good problem solver.

I think our district has a good future and we need school board members open minded enough to consider all the options we have at our disposal. I will do that.

Al Doering

1. Why are you running for office?

I'm concerned about the future health and direction of our school district. I believe that a strong well-run public school is important to the future growth and financial vitality of our communities.

By providing a wide range of educational and extra-circular options to the children of our district we can help ensure that they become good solid citizens.

In addition, this will encourage new families move to our district, which will not only improve the prosperity of our existing businesses, but it will open up new opportunities and jobs.

2. What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Obviously number one on many peoples list would be the existing facilities ­ and I agree that it is a major issue, in fact there are so many issues tied to this topic that it probably covers major issues 1-25.

I don't think there is much doubt that we are long overdue with the need of upgrading our facilities. The question becomes "how much and when."

The current Building Referendum for this fall presents one solution to that issue. It will be up to the voters to decide if this proposal is the right "how much and when."

If they decide that it's not, then its back to the drawing board to find a another option that would be embraced by the majority of the voters. That's what's great about a democracy.

The important thing for everyone in our district to remember, however, is that the facilities do not teach our children. That important responsibility, thankfully, is done by our teachers, parents, administrators, church leaders, community leaders, and fellow citizens.

We would have to look very hard to find a better group than we have right here.

3. Why should you be elected?

I'll leave that up to the voters, but I am one of those former "children" who benefited from the educational opportunities of this district, and proud of it.

Tom Hammer

1. Why are you running for office?

I have decided to run for school board because I have observed the board for several years and have been frustrated with the actions of various members and the overall lack of results and public communication.

I feel it is time to "get off the sideline" and take personal accountability for issues of the board, our students, the school and the community. Our children's education and their best interests needs to be put as a priority.

I am also confident I have the needed skills I can add to the board such as leadership, team building, vision, creativity, listening and communication that will enhance how this group works together for a common cause.

In whole, I believe I can be a asset to the board, our students and teachers, our school and our community.

2. What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

The two major issues are regarding the school facilities and overall cost control (not just of school building proposals, but of continuing operating expenses).

We are at a crossroads regarding the management of our school facilities. Now is the time to move forth plans that are cost effective and responsible for our district.

This is the pre-k-12 campus being proposed. This plan will address facility-related issues, such as future operating cost controls, provide better learning opportunities for our children, provide opportunity for more teacher and parent involvement, will minimize future open enrollment out of our district, and most importantly provide a safe, learning environment for our students and teachers.

I recognize the success of our children's education is more than the school building, but I also realize this is our biggest challenge today to achieve quality learning and teaching opportunities as well as bringing unity into our district.

Our teachers and students have overachieved with the tools provided in today's competitive environment ­ my hats go off to them. So, first priority is to be decisive and committed to a building plan the public requires and demands (whether the proposed plan passes or not).

The second issue is that of school building costs and ongoing operating costs. As a board member I will commit to assure we are most responsible with our tax dollars to build a cost effective building and spend no more than we need to in order to provide to our children and our community.

Secondly, as most state funding continues to be cut or frozen, I will make sure that spending is managed to offer existing educational programs and make sure new monies are used for maintaining or enhancing educational opportunity, not spent on redundant services as we are today or in the other proposed multi-site plans.

3. Why should you be elected?

Let my credentials and achievements speak for themselves.

I have been a long-time action-orientated leader in business and in our schools, church, and community, not a late comer.

My wife, Vickie, and I have been married for 15 years and moved to this district with our three children nearly 10 years ago.

My children are John in grade eight, Jeff in grade seven, and Katie in grade three. They are very active in sports and other activities of the school and community.

I have served on the district curriculum advisory committee for our district now for more than four years, have chaperoned countless times on school events, etc., and have been head coach and assistant coach for more than five years in youth sports, such as basketball and baseball.

In my career I am on the Executive Management Team in charge of our complete product line of Akzo Nobel Inks, an $80 million global business providing high quality inks to the printing industry.

I have managed a global research and development team with about 20 people and a budget over $2 million. At one time I managed R&D in four sites, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Trelleborg, Sweden. Our groups were always under budget.

Additionally I lead project teams to consolidate facilities ­ the most recent in 2002 saving more than $150,000 annually on one project.

Away from work I am active at St. John's Lutheran Church in HL, participating as a Sunday school teacher, confirmation teacher, and leadership and child care for Alpha, an adult study ministry.

My hobby is lake restoration. I am president of the Lake Ann Improvement Association, on the Advisory Committee for Shoreland Volunteers in a four county cluster, and serve as Chairman of the Wright County Water Plan Task Force responsible for protecting our water resources.

In 2002, I was presented with the Shoreland Volunteer Individual Leadership Award for "outstanding leadership, creating goal-orientated programs, and building communication in the community."

In 2000 the lake association was presented an award by Wright County as "Outstanding Conservation Cooperator" due to projects I initiated and lead.

As you can see I am well rounded and active while demonstrating hard work, commitment, persistence, leadership and achievement. I am not afraid to get involved, even with unpopular issues.

With your vote, I will bring these attributes to our school community and help create the vision that is hoped for by our community.

Rob Merritt

1. Why are you running for office?

I am running for school board because I can see a bright future ahead for our district and I want to be a part of it.

We need board members who are willing to address our future growth and prepare for it at the same time providing for the needs of the students who are already going to school here.

Whether you like it or not, the HLWW area is growing by leaps and bounds. It is the responsibility of the school board and the citizens of the district to provide our current and future students with the facilities, curriculum and technology they need to compete with students from surrounding districts.

2. What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Lack of space and curriculum.

Lack of space can be addressed in only one way, add more space. My solution to the space issue is to build a K-12 complex.

Others will say that we should try and get by with what we have, add portable buildings, remodel a building and see if we can buy a little more time.

A proposal to do major remodeling at the elementary schools in Waverly and Winsted was sent to the Department of Education this spring and they turned it down.

The Department of Education will allow the district to spend roughly $1.5 million at Waverly and $1.2 million at Winsted. That sounds like a lot of money, but once you get done repairing and updating, you might gain a couple of classrooms at each site.

Any remodeling at the high school would be limited to repairs on the existing structure. The Department of Education recommended we "think big" in terms of our number one responsibility ­ improving the learning conditions for the students' education and preparation for the challenges of the 21st Century.

We all know interest rates are at all-time lows and building costs go up every year, now is the time to build a K-12 campus.

The school board has a plan. Build a K-12 school now. As the population grows, go back to the towns, build the elementary schools and convert the K- 12 complex to a middle school-high school.

We need to expand our curriculum at the elementary, middle, and high school. We need to offer more electives at the high school level to challenge our students.

I would like to see more arts offered at the elementary level. Our teachers do an excellent job educating our children but they have so much more to offer. The number of electives we offer at the high school is limited by the space we have, funding (we need that operating levy) and current teacher work loads.

We must provide our students with the curriculum and technology they need so their test scores remain high and our students are prepared for the future.

3. Why should you be elected?

I should be elected because I will work for our children.

I believe the number one responsibility of a school board member is to provide the best possible educational opportunities it can to the students in their district.

I will work within our budget to provide our students with that education. I will support our students, administration, teachers and support staff. I believe in being a team player.

Lastly, my faith, my wife Denise, and our children Tanya, Anna, and Daniel are the focal points of my life. I will always be thinking what would be best for my children and the other children in this district when I make decisions as a board member.

James Raymond

1. Why are you running for office?

This is an exciting time for our district. The opportunities are unlimited. Many positive and forward-thinking people have urged me to run for the school board position.

2. What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

One issue that never changes, is educating our children and providing them with opportunities to continue their education. We as a district are required to educate all students of that district. Open enrollment to other districts is not a responsible way to educate our students. This issue has to be addressed. Yes, it will cost taxpayers money for a modern,-up-to-date building that will meet the standards of today's students. Having the lowest school tax only shows we have done nothing but maintain our schools for our students. Look around at our neighboring communities where our students open enroll.

3. Why should you be elected?

I have been on the board for fifteen years. During that time i have worked with many good board members. Together we have worked to bring the school to a higher level of trust and understanding with the staff, teachers and residents of the district. I would hope to continue our work, so that our children and grandchildren can become educated and productive people. Hopefully, they will want to continue in our community.

Dan Schaible

1. Why are you running for office?

My family and I have lived in the Waverly area for 13 years. During this time I have seen our three communities grow but the school district has seemed to be at a standstill.

As a contractor I know that we need to improve things as time goes by. We cannot grow without improving school facilities. We can remodel some areas, but sometimes buildings have to be replaced with new structures.

Why am I running? I am running for school board because I would like to help our school district move ahead.

Our school needs to change ­ both today and in the future. We need to adapt, change, and update our facilities. We need to teach our children basic skills but we also must give them the tools and knowledge to take them beyond, be it on to college, the military or the work force.

It is our job as parents and educators to provide for our students' future.

2. What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

I'm sure that everyone knows about the first major issue: the building referendum. Unfortunately, most people believe that you are either for or against the school.

Ever since our three children started attending school, I have supported our HLWW schools by volunteering for many different activities.

One of the most recent has been raising money to buy marching band uniforms. Thanks to the current board, the band plans to have their uniforms next spring. So when people tell me that I am against the school, they really don't know who I am.

Everyone wants a school that is big and new. I would love to have a new K-12 building. But, as a parent and member of this school district, I can't agree with the idea of digging our district into such a large hole of debt.

There are many ways that we can improve our schools: we could build a new high school; construction of a new elementary building; we could remodel; we could add on to the Waverly school.

We need to develop a plan for the future and then begin implementing our plan instead of trying to get the future in one giant step.

Issue #2 . . . Howard Lake, Waverly, and Winsted ­ three different towns, one school district.

While working to raise money for marching band uniforms, I have found that some people from each community dislike the other towns in our school district.

Yes, each town has a right to its own identity, but when it comes to our school district (our children) we need to put aside our differences and work together for them.

When I spoke to people about the marching band, I told them that it is really a community band because it is part of all three towns. The band has marched in all three towns' parades over the last two summers, to standing ovations.

I know there will always be conflicts among our towns. I plan to listen to everyone from all three communities and try to use that knowledge to bring our towns together for the betterment of our school district.

3. Why should you be elected?

There are seven people running for five seats on the school board. I feel that every one of the candidates should be elected, because we all believe that improvements are needed in our school.

As for me, I believe that we need certain improvements now. We have waited and done nothing for far too long.

I don't believe that building a completely brand new school is the answer. The incredible financial hardship this causes would be too much at one time. Building in incremental stages would be a better way to go.

I am a parent who believes in education. I will do my best to help our school district move forward. If elected, I plan to help our three communities work together for the good of our school and most importantly, our students.

Charles Weber

1. Why are you running for office?

I enjoy the challenges of working with the differences of the board members to come to a consensus to solving the problems of the district.

2. What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

a. Facilities, space, and curriculum. To work with the committees and board to come to a good common sense decision.

b. We have some animosity in the district about the strike era.

It is time to forgive and forget. We have to improve on respecting and working with our employees to foster a better, cheerful atmosphere to work in. It will increase the productivity of everyone.

3. Why should you be elected?

I believe I bring experience, open-mindedness, honesty, trust and common sense to the board.


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